color="#003399">PEACE OF MIND

Adrienna Marie Maxwell

Activists Anais and Victor hang on the anchor of a Chevron drilling ship off the Shetland Islands in September 2010. Image:

Poverty, Gulf oil disasters, immigration, corporations running global governments, prejudice, racism, inequality, ignorance, genocide and suffering the world over are just some of the issues that would make any social activist’s head spin. It can be hard to feel like social activism makes a difference when there are so many people, businesses and governments out to oppress what is good and right. But to encourage us all to keep working toward a better planet, for both ourselves as well as our neighbors, here is a little Peace of Mind. These stories show just how much of a difference even one person or a group of people can truly make.

Chevron Deepwater Drilling
Activists working for Greenpeace—a prominent organization known for its global involvement in confronting environmental degradation and promoting alternative energy—physically prevented a Chevron deepwater drilling ship from drilling just off the Shetland Islands in late September. Anais and Victor, the two activists involved, hung from the chains of the ship’s anchor and prevented the ship from raising its anchor and moving to its anticipated site for deepwater oil drilling. Even after Chevron legally forced the activists to remove themselves from the anchor, the diehards swam back and forth in front of the ship and rotated with other activists in survival pods, continuing to halt the ship. Talk about using mind AND body to enact change!  For more information on the situation as it stands now, please go to Greenpeace’s website:

Technology put to Good Use
St. Philip’s Academy, a private school in Newark, NJ is using technology developed locally in Ithaca, NY by the company known as AeroFarms to help make the old, vacant buildings in Newark useful. The system, known as an aeroponic growing system, does not require soil or sunshine to work, and has made it possible for gardens to grow in old buildings by use of LED lamps and a nutrient mist that is sprayed on the cloth bed that the plants are grown in. AeroFarms leased its machine to EcoVeggies, the group running the experimental use of this technology at St. Philip’s. Both of these groups, AeroFarms and EcoVeggies, are part of the sustainable agriculture movement. And these so-called “vertical farms” are just the beginning of the possible innovations being developed to handle today’s environmental challenges.

Using Twitter for Social Change
Twitter is one of the most popular social media web sites on the Internet and gives its users the ability to send short messages called “Tweets” to one another.  Believe it or not, there is such thing as a Twestival—and no, it’s not a celebration of Tweety Bird. The Twestival, or Twitter Festival, is a global movement in social media to enact social change. This festival of sorts is a way of bringing people all over the world together to fundraise toward a common cause. In 2009, the Twestival Global was held in 202 different cities (all coordinated by volunteers who set up these offline events to raise money) and over $250,000 was donated by thousands of people, resulting in the construction of upwards of 55 wells in India, Uganda, Ethiopia and other nations that need safe drinking water. In 2010 the focus of the Twestival was education, raising over $460,000 worldwide—enough to build 31 schools (specifically in Haiti and poorer regions of Africa and Asia). What will the Twitter community tackle next?!

Inner City Gardening?
Stephanie Gwinn, an elementary school librarian in the inner city neighborhood of Grant Park, Atlanta, GA, decided that her students did not know enough about where their food came from. She took it upon herself to teach them, as is the purpose of all teachers. Gwinn applied for and received a grant from Outward Bound, a non-profit organization focused on outdoor education. As part of the grant, Outward Bound agreed to send staff members every week to teach students in Grant Park about everything from growing their first seedlings to composting the remains later on. The project started in 2007 and has been ongoing for three years. It now has the participation of kindergarteners and fourth graders who spend time every week tending to the ever growing garden. A small greenhouse has been built for new seedlings and a new herb garden was planted in the spring to celebrate Earth Day. And all of this because one woman saw an educational void and decided to tackle it.

Adrienna is a student at SUNY ESF and a new intern at the Peace Council.